by: Jenna Deery Updated:
UNION COUNTY - While Union County Public Schools is in the middle of a heated battle over where students go to school, many members of the community are mourning the loss of one of its leaders.
Longtime school board member John Crowder passed away around 1:30 Sunday afternoon, just five days after a controversial vote to shuffle thousands of Union County students to different schools.
Crowder spent 31 years in school board leadership. The 77-year-old had been a member of the Union County board of education since it began in 1993 and served 10 years before that on the board for Monroe City Schools.
UCPS Communications Director Rob Jackson said, "He was an incredible leader and his leadership will be missed."
Crowder's wife, Minnie, told Channel 9 he was in good health and only took medication for arthritis pain. Sunday marked 52 years of marriage for the couple. She believes Crowder's death was brought on by the stress of Tuesday night's vote to change where many students go to school. Crowder made the surprise motion for the vote a month ahead of when it was supposed to happen.
On Sunday, families rallied again with speakers energizing the crowd. Parents held signs with their children, hoping school leaders know they are still not pleased with the decision.
"This is not a crisis and my children are basically the pawns of this game that they are playing," said mother of three, Christine Carroll.
At the rally, event organizers had parents fill out transfer applications. They said they plan to flood the UCPS central office with about 3,000 applications. Officials have to respond to each one.
They also asked for donations for an impending legal battle with the board.
"It can be overturned. They have the right to overturn and we have enough evidence to support it," said event organizer, Maura MacKinnon.
This battle has been a personal one for many people involved, including Crowder. According to his board bio, his reason for serving was to make sure each child received a good education.